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Microsoft May Enter Smartwatch Fray

Microsoft has asked component suppliers for 1.5-inch touchscreens that could be used in a device like a smartwatch, says Wall Street Journal.
Apple iWatch Vs. Smartwatches Past And Present
Apple iWatch Vs. Smartwatches Past And Present
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Microsoft doesn't want to be left out of the smartwatch category. It has asked its parts suppliers in Asia to send it touch-based components that could be used to make a smartwatch, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Citing executives at Microsoft's supply partners, WSJ says Microsoft's touch-based watch may have a screen that measures 1.5 inches. Additional details were not provided. The component company executive noted that he personally met with Microsoft's research and development team in Redmond, Wash., to discuss the product. Microsoft, however, declined to comment on the story.

"It's not surprising that Microsoft is working on a smartwatch," said Ovum analyst Jan Dawson. "Any time Apple enters a category, it tends to blow up, and because the rumors have been out there for so long, there's been plenty of time for others to jump in."

Interest in smartwatches -- or small, wearable computers that have sensors and radios on board -- has bloomed ever since The New York Times reported earlier this year that Apple is working on such a product. Since then, inside sources from Samsung, Google, Microsoft and others suggest that every tech company out there is working on some sort of smartwatch device.

[ Just because Apple is in the game doesn't mean smartwatches will be a market success. See Nine Things Smartwatches Need To Succeed. ]

So far, not a single one of these companies has confirmed such plans, and certainly none of them has announced any such product. There are several smartwatch products available to consumers already, however.

Take, for example, the Pebble smartwatch. The company introduced the watch, which was funded as a Kickstarter project, at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The device began shipping not too long after that. It has already received software updates since launch, and Pebble recently began offering an API so developers can target the device.

Both Motorola and Sony, which make Android-based smartphones, offer smartwatches of their own. The MOTOACTV smartwatch links with any Android smartphone that has the MOTOACTV app on board, and can do things such as answer calls, view incoming text messages, listen to music and, of course, record exercise sessions and workouts.

None of these three devices has been a smash hit, but they haven't been complete failures, either. Can Microsoft succeed where others haven't? Ovum's Dawson doesn't think so.

"Microsoft has never done particularly well with personal devices -- the Zune and Windows Phone have both performed poorly -- and the Surface is the most recent example of a new hardware category that hasn't done well at all. A watch also makes most sense as an extension of another personal device, usually a phone. But since Windows Phone hasn't done that well, it's hard to imagine there's a big market for a Windows watch."